Bronx River has a new tenant

Beaver makes home between river and parking lot

Wildlife Conservation Society
The beaver lodge on the Bronx River.

Click here to watch the Bronx Beaver video

On George Washington’s birthday, employees of the Bronx Zoo saw something no New Yorker has seen in the city since George Washington slept here. A beaver.

Hunted almost to extinction in Colonial times, beavers have been making a comeback in rural New York, but now one has moved to the Bronx, taking up residence near the zoo.

The beaver, a male, has been christened Jose, in honor of Rep. Jose Serrano, who has brought $14.5 million in federal funds to the effort to restore the river to health.

Its lodge of sticks and mud piled on the shore of the Bronx River steps from a parking lot is dramatic evidence, say environmentalists, that the river is healthy again.

In announcing the find, the Bronx River Alliance practically turned cartwheels, saying the beaver’s presence “means that our river cleanup efforts over the last decade or so — efforts that have involved hundreds of people, millions of dollars, and enforcement of environmental regulations — have paid off so much so that our river is now ‘clean’ enough for Bronx Jose to set up housekeeping.”

Linda Cox, the Bronx River Administrator for the New York City Parks Department and executive director of the Bronx River Alliance, hailed the event as “one of our proudest achievements.”

Before Europeans arrived and began hunting the beaver for its thick fur, an estimated 60 million beavers inhabited North America. By 1800, they had completely vanished east of the Mississippi.

The Bronx River Alliance believes Jose moved in about a year ago. That’s when the organization began to get reports of sightings and to spot chewed-up trees.

Something that was probably Jose “made an appearance during an evening canoe ride we held this past August,” the Alliance said. But it was not until Jose’s lodge was found and he was filmed swimming nearby that his existence was confirmed.

The beaver’s appearance, enthused Dr. Steven Sanderson, president and CEO of the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society, “is proof that we can coexist with nature anywhere on the planet. Anything is possible.”

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